New Zealand general election, 1935

New Zealand general election, 1935
New Zealand general election, 1935
New Zealand
1931 ←
26 (Māori) & 27 November (general) 1935
→ 1938

All 80 seats in the Parliament of New Zealand
41 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  Michael Joseph Savage.jpg George William Forbes.jpg
Leader Michael Joseph Savage George William Forbes
Party Labour United/Reform
Leader since 1933 1925
Leader's seat Auckland West Hurunui
Last election 24 seats, 34.3% 51 seats, 55.4%
Seats after 53 19
Seat change increase 29 decrease 29
Percentage 46.1% 32.9%
Swing increase 11.8% decrease 22.5%

  Third party Fourth party
  Harold Montague Rushworth (1940).jpg Eruera Tirikatene.jpg
Leader Harold Rushworth Eruera Tirikatene
Party Country Party Ratana
Leader since 1928 1928
Leader's seat Bay of Islands Southern Maori
Last election 1 seat, 2.3% Not yet founded
Seats after 2 2
Seat change increase 1 increase 1
Percentage 2.5% 1.0%
Swing increase 0.2% increase 1.0%

Prime Minister before election

George William Forbes

Elected Prime Minister

Michael Joseph Savage

The 1935 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 25th term. It resulted in the Labour Party's first electoral victory, with Michael Joseph Savage becoming the first Labour Prime Minister. The governing coalition, consisting of the United Party and the Reform Party, suffered a major defeat, attributed by many to their handling of the Great Depression. The year after the election, United and Reform took their coalition further, merging to form the modern National Party.



Since 1931, New Zealand had been governed by a coalition of the United Party and the Reform Party. United and Reform had traditionally been enemies – United was a revival of the old Liberal Party, a progressive party with a strong urban base, while Reform was a conservative party with a strong rural base. When the 1928 elections left United and Reform with an equal number of seats, United managed to obtain support from the growing Labour Party, but in 1931, the worsening depression prompted a dispute over economic policy, and Labour withdrew its backing. Reform then agreed to go into coalition with United, fearing that an election would lead to significant gains for the "socialistic" Labour. The coalition held on to power in the 1931 elections, but the ongoing economic troubles made the government deeply unpopular, and by the time of the 1935 elections, Labour's support was soaring.

On Sunday 24 November, shortly before the election, an address by Colin Scrimgeour ("Uncle Scrim") on the Friendly Road radio station which was expected to urge listeners to vote Labour was jammed by the Post Office

The election

The date for the main 1935 elections was 27 November, a Wednesday. Elections to the four Maori electorates were held the day before. 919,798 people were registered to vote, and there was a turnout of 90.8%. This turnout was considerably higher than for the turnout in the previous election, but still about average for the time period. The number of electorates being contested was 80, a number which had been fixed since 1902.[1]


The 1935 election saw a massive win for the opposition Labour Party, which won fifty-three seats, and formed the First Labour Government. The governing coalition won only nineteen. This difference was not so great in the popular vote, however, with Labour winning 46.1% to the coalition's 32.9%. Apart from Labour and the coalition, the only two groups to win places in Parliament were the Country Party and the Ratana movement, both of which gained two seats.

Four independents were elected, Harry Atmore, David McDougall, Charles Wilkinson and Robert Wright. The independents were tactically supported by one of the major parties who did not stand a candidate against them, and they generally voted with that party; Wilkinson and Wright supported National while Atmore and McDougall supported Labour. And Labour did not stand candidates against the two Country Party members. [2]

Many commentators blamed the coalition's failure to win seats on vote splitting by the Democrat Party, an "anti-socialist" group founded by a former organizer for the coalition, Albert Davy. The Democrats won 7.8% of the vote, but no seats. Among their candidates were future National MP's Frederick Doidge and Matthew Oram.

Results and the 25th Parliament

For a list of Members of Parliament elected in 1935, see 25th New Zealand Parliament.

Party Leader Percentage Seats won change
Labour Michael Joseph Savage 46.1% 53 +29
United-Reform coalition George William Forbes 32.9% 19 −29
Democrats Albert Davy 7.8% 0 new party
Country Party Harold Rushworth 2.5% 2 +1
Ratana Eruera Tirikatene 1.0% 2 new party
Independents (including Harry Atmore) 9.7% 4 −1
Labour win from Coalition 100% 80


  1. ^ "General elections 1853–2005 – dates & turnout". Elections New Zealand. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  2. ^ Political Parties in New Zealand by R. S. Milne, p. 76 (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1966)

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